Ryan Blaney Poised for Progress In 2017

At age 23, Ryan Blaney enters this season of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series racing with valuable experience for his Wood Brothers Racing team.  Refreshed, relaxed, and driven, the sophomore driver from Cortland, OH is ready to take on the new race and points format for NASCAR as well as dropping the hammer in the No. 21 Motorcraft Ford Fusion.

Previously, Blaney shared his thoughts on a myriad of topics, including his expectations heading into this season, his thoughts on the new structure for the races and points system, his offseason exploits, and the upcoming Daytona 500.  In the conclusion of our two part interview, Blaney opened up about some recent praises from Jeff Gordon, his NASCAR dream team, and how he’d like to be remembered in life.

Blaney was not afraid to speak candidly on some of the harder issues in racing and with current events.  That said, he showed his dry sense of humor in this segment of our interview, especially with critics on social media.  With the Daytona 500 in a few days, it’s about starting off 2017 on a strong note and building on moments from last season with poise and drive.

RT :  Jeff Gordon recently said on RaceHub how you’re one of the young gun racers with the total package for looks, social media presence, on track talent, and potential.  When you hear someone of his stature compliment you like that, does it make you feel validated when you deal with some stuff on social media, particularly a tweet by a fan about Daniel Suarez working out and that you needed to do the same?

Blaney was seen as the total package by FOX NASCAR's Jeff Gordon. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson/The Racing Experts)

Blaney was seen as the total package by FOX NASCAR’s Jeff Gordon. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson/The Racing Experts)

RB :  (snickers) Yea, first, it was cool to hear Jeff say that.  I didn’t see that Race Hub when he said that until the night of my appearance on the show when we were sitting there.  Some family members texted me that Jeff said that stuff.

I sent him a note.  I was like, “Wow!  I appreciate the kind words.”  He’s been someone I’ve looked up to ever since I can remember watching him race.  It was an honor to be able to race with him in his inaugural final start, his official one in 2015. (laughter)  Then he came back last year, it was cool to race him when he was in the 88 car.

He’s been someone I’ve looked up to and he’s a big mentor to me.  It’s just a privilege just to know him and get to go out with him a little bit.  It’s been a lot of fun to get to know him.  That was really cool to hear.

People on Twitter, that’s just normal.  You get hate every now and then.  Listen, I like social media.  But I’ve got an equal hate for it and sometimes, I wished it wasn’t around.  It’s something that’s around the world but yea, I enjoy responding back to fans who have mean things to say.  (laughs)

I don’t ever say mean things on Twitter to anybody unless they say something bad to me, but even then, I won’t say mean things.  I’ll make a smart ass comment back to them.  That dude, he didn’t even have – well, the thing that made me mad, we all work hard in the offseason.  There are some vacations planned and trips like that – every driver does that.

Just because I’m not posting sweaty workout, gym pics doesn’t mean I’m not working hard to stay in shape. (laughs)  I wasn’t dogging Daniel or anything like that at all.  I was trying to set that guy straight.  I laugh at most of those people.  It’s a pretty fun time.

The thing that’s funny to me is that when he made a comment like that, the dude doesn’t even have a picture.  He’s an egg.  He’s got like three followers and he was just trying to get a rise out of me which he thinks he did.  It was just me having fun with him.  The dude is probably 350 or something like that and is sitting on his couch.  I don’t know.  It’s just funny to me.  I enjoy it, I enjoy talking back to people on Twitter.  That’s something fun.

RT :  Well you grew up in a racing family and you probably heard this saying from Dale Earnhardt.  “As long as they’re making noise about you, that’s all that matters.”  Even if it is the trolls of social media, just consider how far you’ve come along with your career.  From that time we talked on my podcast back in 2012 to where you are now, you followed through with your dreams.

RB :  I appreciate it, man.

RT :  My friend and cohort Ashley wanted to know, if you got to be a driver/team owner and you have the ability to pick anybody from the past or present, which driver would you hire as your teammate, which driver would you retire with when you’re older, and which driver would you pick as your teammate even if they annoyed you?

RB :  I can only pick one driver?

RT :  You can pick multiple, we’ve got time.

RB :  I was asked this question a little bit ago but it was just with current drivers.  Am I driving also, am I like Tony Stewart with a four car team and I am driving and pick three other guys?

RT :  Pick as many as you want.  We’re not NASCAR.

Blaney carries on the Wood Brothers' legacy. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson/The Racing Experts)

Blaney carries on the Wood Brothers’ legacy. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson/The Racing Experts)

RB :  I’ll do up a five car team.  I’ll drive the fifth car.  Past or present, eh?  Man, this is tough.  I’m going to pick two from the past that are retired and two from the present.  Retired, I’d pick David Pearson.  Get to know the Wood Brothers and things like that.  What a racer he was.  Then I would go with Dale Earnhardt.  I feel like he would obviously be great to have as a role model on the team.

As for current drivers on my team, that’s tough.  I pick Jimmie Johnson to have on there.  It’s hard not to pick that guy.  (laughs)  Man, for a final driver?  I don’t know.  There’s so many talented drivers out there, whether they’re younger or veterans…I’m going with a young guy since I picked Jimmie.  It’d be a coin toss between three drivers.  It’d be Joey Logano, Chase Elliott, or Kyle Larson.

I feel like it’d be really tough to choose between those guys if you’re wanting to hire a younger guy for that final spot.  It’d have to be a three sided coin to pick those guys because I feel like they’re the most talented ones under 27, 28, under 30.  You can really build a team around them.  That’s a tough one because it’s so hard to pick a team.  It’s so hard.

RT :  Hey, I could’ve asked you to pick a journalist to drive for your team so you can scare the hell out of them because I’m sure there’s some of us you’d like to have experience your job!

RB :  (laughs) Oh yea, man!

RT :  I’ll ask you something I was asked back in high school.  Would you rather be remembered for your accomplishments during the prime of your life or as someone with gradual progress in life but for the things you did away from the things you love to do like racing?

RB :  Would I rather be remembered for my racing career or things outside of it?

RT :  Yea, something like that.

RB :  That’s a tough one.  They asked you this in your writing class in high school?

RT :  (laughs) Well a bit differently since I wasn’t a racecar driver back then either.

RB :  To be remembered for your profession or for things outside of it?

RT :  Exactly.

"I want to be remembered for good things in NASCAR." - Ryan Blaney

“I want to be remembered for good things in NASCAR.” – Ryan Blaney

RB :  That’s tough.  Racing is what I love doing the most and it’s also my job.  You want to be remembered as a champion and one of the greatest.  But then there’s things outside of racing that you can do to help the world, but I don’t know what I’d do.  That’s hard.  That’s a tough one, man.  That’s really hard.

I want to say I want to be remembered for my accomplishments in NASCAR because that’s the main thing I care about.  I’m sure my answer might change as I get older and you figure out life a little more and the bigger picture of everything.  Right now, as a younger kid, that’s my main focus.  I would say I want to be remembered for good things in NASCAR.

RT :  Nice, because I was wanting to see if you’d do the Carl Edwards route here…

RB :  He’s a guy who can do that.  He’s a genuinely great guy.  He can influence people like that.  If I could pick one guy who could do that, it’s him.  He’s a well spoken guy and a genuinely good person.  Right now for me, racing is what I want to do right now.

RT :  At least I didn’t ask if you wanted to run for president…

RB :  (laughs)  No, man.  I don’t even watch politics.  I don’t even do that stuff.

RT :  There’s just so much going on that it’s nice to have racing going on.

RB :  It’s just ridiculous, man.  I see so much stuff on the internet with how crazy people are with politics.  Oh my God.  Like, I don’t want to say but it’s amusing how crazy people can be about that stuff.  I just can’t.

Author’s Notes :  We’d like to thank Ryan for taking the time to talk racing and life with us.  Photos accompanying this piece are courtesy of Jeremy Thompson of The Racing Experts and Getty Images North America.  Thanks again Ryan!

Rob Tiongson

Rob Tiongson is a 30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught his eyes.

From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by him or by one of his talented columnists who have a passion for racing.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. He enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat.

Tiongson, a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, pursues his Master of Arts in Digital Communications at St. Bonaventure University. Indeed, while Tiongson is proud to be from Massachusetts, he's just as happy to be a Texan.

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